An Analysis of Transmisogyny and Racism through the Lens of Laverne Cox

An Analysis of Transmisogyny and Racism through the Lens of Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox is an award winning actress and television producer. For many in the LGBTQ community she is a role model and advocate. Her presence in popular television shows is beginning to pave the way for other transgender men and women within the workplace. However, just like the street harassment described in Laverne’s anecdote transgender people often face a world of hate and discrimination. Laverne discusses these issues in her speech while applying an intersectional analysis of the transphobia, racism, and misogyny that is a detriment to society. 

Laverne Cox was a feature presenter at the 2014 Creating Change Conference. As such an important role model for many people she received a warm welcome from the audience in which she responds “justice is what love looks like in public, and this feels so just right now, yes. But– but I have to tell you, I have to tell you that I am not used to receiving this kind of love, everybody. I’m not used to it”. The quote that she has adopted as a driving theme in her speeches “justice is what loveLaverne-Cox-CC14 looks like in public” is powerful. This quote is instills the concept that when someone is loved and accepted they are receiving the justice they deserve as a human being. This may be true for all forms of hatred or oppression. To love is to accept someone for who they truly are. Therefore, when someone receives justice or love the walls built up by racism or by binaries are torn down. Lavern Cox and many advocates all over the world are fighting towards a world of justice.

A reoccurring theme throughout Laverne’s speech is the concept of transmisogyny. The core word, misogyny, implies the hatred of women and the assumption that femininity is inferior to masculinity. Thus, the victims of transmisogyny are transwomen. The bases of the hatred toward the transwomen reaches beyond the issues of sexism and transphobia. Transmisogyny combines the alienation of people not conforming to gender binaries. Binaries being either male or female, heterosexual or homosexual. In reality gender, sex, and sexuality lives on a spectrum. For many people in society this concept leaves them uncomfortable due to their lack of knowledge.  To cope, people in the transgendered community are routinely oppressed and marginalized. With the lack of acceptance from society, transgender men and women are not receiving justice or love. This is acknowledged in Laverne Cox’s story in which she is dehumanized by the men referring to her in derogatory terms. They ask her what she is? In a world of acceptance and justice this concept would be abstract and people would be free to adhere to wherever they felt comfortable on the gender spectrum. However, the men seemingly felt a need to distinguish this fact to satisfy their own personal discomfort. This act displays transmisogyny through the mens incessant need to not feel emasculated by a transwomen. At this point in Laverne’s speech she begins to express the history of sexuality of black men. In some sense I agree with her explanation of a inner desire to prove masculinity. However, the issue is much more complicated than just a historical notion. The framework of the discrimination occurs from ill-acceptance and ignorance. Advocates for the LGBTQ  community are rallying to educate and bring justice for transgendered men and women.

A study completed in Toronto outlined that white privilege has constructed a particular image of a “real” women as being white, passive, and feminine. In accordance with Laverne’s experiences, the study indicated that transwomen of colour experience an intersectional stigma, such as racism and sexism, on a daily basis (Logie 174-191). White transwomen also faced street harassment; however, not as frequently. This outlines the white privilege because women of colour are being oppressed through an intersection of both racial and queer communities. The white transwomen are living in a society where the “idea” of beauty in media is predominately white. Thus, their ability to find a space in society is greater than that of a coloured transwomen. The article states that “by representing queerness as white, LBTQ women of colour were rendered invisible in both queer and racialized communities” (Logie 174-191). The invisibility that cloaks coloured transwomen in society allows for violence to occur. Unjust actions towards these women are a result of the dehumanization by society and the authorities. These actions must become just through love and acceptance.

Laverne Cox draws attention to issues that have corrupted society for decades. It is an unfortunate reality that the troubles surrounding rights and justice for transgendered women and the LGBTQ community as a whole will not be fixed overnight. It will take many more tragedies and thousands more people rallying together to make a change.

Works Cited

Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. N.p., 07 Dec. 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2015.

Laverne Cox at Creating Change 2014. Perf. Laverne Cox. National LGBTQ Task Force, 5 Feb. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

Logie, Carmen H., and Marie-Jolie Rwigema. ““The Normative Idea of Queer is a White Person”: Understanding Perceptions of White Privilege Among Lesbian, Bisexual, and Queer Women of Color in Toronto, Canada.” Journal of lesbian studies 18.2 (2014): 174-191.

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Laverne Cox on Intersectionality and Feminist Issues

Laverne Cox on Intersectionality and Feminist Issues

Laverne Cox Speaks of a situation she encountered when she was walking the streets of New York and the sexual harassment that erupted from simply trying to arrive at her destination. She recounts an exchange between two men and herself, in which the men were exchanging derogatory terms with regard to her race. Following this exchange the men realize she is transgender and the harassment changes focus from one of race to one of gender expression and identity. She then goes on to further explain the vehement hostility that transgender people face in living their everyday lives, more specifically transgender people of colour and how the intersecting oppression creates and even larger realm of risk. Laverne Cox presents an intersectional analysis with regard to the struggle LGBTQ individuals face. Through this analysis she posits that if acceptance cannot be learned no progress can ever be made.

Writer, and activist Audre Lorde once said, “There is no such thing as a single issue struggle because we do not live single issue lives” (138). The ideas of Lorde conquer greatly with the message Cox conveyed throughout her speech, as well as the methodology of intersectionality in general. Intersectionality is a concept that illustrates the individual characteristics we posses such as our race, gender, class etc. result in varying forms of oppression that cannot be dealt with independently, but rather must be examined synchronously. With the notion in mind that we are not one-dimensional people it only seems logical that an intersectional intervention would present great strides towards equality. However, we live in a society in which we greatly value instantaneous results and quick fixes. Problems such as racism, and transphobia (prejudice against transgender people), or homophobia (prejudice against homosexual people) don’t have a Band-Aid solution; there is no “quick fix.” With complex problems come complex solutions and it is the apathetic nature of society that promotes this cycle of oppression. People such as Laverne Cox understand that nothing will ever be accomplished in the face of hatred. However, it is naïve to believe that love alone is the answer, nonetheless, it is a start, and no great act has ever occurred without the strongest of foundations.

Throughout Laverne’s speech it also became apparent that white privilege was an underlying theme. She describes that among transgender people, transgender people of colour are those who make up the largest percentage of victims of violence (Cox, “Explains and What to do About it”). As Peggy McIntosh mentions in her essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, white people often do not even realize the extent to which they are privileged and in fact are taught not to recognize this (278). McIntosh explains that white people are taught to see themselves and their lives as the standard of normalcy and all comparisons are to be made based off this standard (278). If a white cis gendered male posses the most privilege, then a female transgender person of colour would be experiencing three intersecting forms of oppression. It is the way in which society deals with these intersections that Laverne speaks of that perpetuate the androcentric and misogynistic views that have been so predominant many years.

Laverne Cox presents an exceptional analysis of the injustice faced by the LGBTQ community. If it was not already glaringly obvious we live in a world where people fear what is different. This fear, more often than not manifests into something far more poisonous. It will always be exponentially easier to see things the way they have always been and to understand things the way they have always been taught. However, this can only breed more fear. If we as a society are willingly to accept the differences, open our minds to the possibility of change then we can be released from the chains of blind conformity that have been holding us back for generations. We need not accept this fear any longer. Speakers such as Laverne depict to society the steps that need to be taken, as well as what has already been accomplished. As a transgender woman of colour starring in an extremely successful television show, she proves that we can tackle these issues. She serves as a beacon of hope for the LGBTQ youth that the struggle they may be facing is something that can be overcome. Using intersectionality as a lens in which to view these pressing issues allows for a far more comprehensive analysis, and I believe that is exactly what Laverne did in her presentation.

Works Cited

Cox, Laverne. “ Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About it).” Everyday Feminism. n.p. 7 Dec. 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2015 <http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/laverne-cox-intersection-what-to-do/>

Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing, 1984. Print

McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Gender through the Prism of Difference. Oxford University Press, 2005. Web. 10 Mar. 2015

Child Denied Medical Care 2015

Child Denied Medical Care 2015

In recent news, a lesbian couple was rejected from medical care for their newborn daughter by a pediatrician recommended to them by their midwife. The doctor who declined this couple, Dr. Roi, said that she “prayed on it and won’t care for Bay (the newborn baby)”. Roi also failed to come into the office the day of the couple’s appointment, perhaps to avoid any confrontation. The couple was shocked and through the use of popular culture and the media, attention accumulated on this issue.

According to Bill 4309 in the state of Michigan (where the couple resides), it is legal for physicians to decline medical care based on their personal, religious, and moral beliefs. Although I agree with doctors keeping this right, I strongly support implementing ways to educate physicians on how to refuse patients in an appropriate manner, not in a shameful way. It was expressed in an interview after the story was released that the couple felt embarrassed and humiliated, as they were simply parents trying to protect their child. Many gay and lesbian couples face troubles in regards to people disapproving of their relationship, however this dissatisfaction has been spread to their innocent child. A baby does not know anything about discrimination, however, she is exposed to it six days after birth and this is something that will continue throughout her lifetime based solely on the sexuality her parents. Homophobia, or fear of homosexuality, is abundant through all fields of society (Aulette and Wittner 113). In addition, there are no laws in Michigan to protect LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer) couples in medical dilemmas such as this.

After attention was brought to this situation, Dr. Roi responded to the couple with a letter. In this letter she wrote, “I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient-doctor relationships that I normally do with my patients.” This letter is completely inappropriate and an unhelpful apology. The couple’s baby has not self identified her sexuality and because she is the patient, it should not matter. Therefore, in this case an intersectional analysis can be provided to understand the correlation between religious beliefs and homophobia.

This family goes against the standard story which always involves a female body that is attracted to men or a man attracted to a woman with no exceptions (Aulette and Wittner 20). Although they differ from what many in society view as “normal”, they should be allowed to have a doctor who will respect them and their life choices. They are legally married with a baby who has not declared her sexuality. It is often a controversial topic to discuss the overlap between religion and opinions about homosexuality. Those with religious beliefs have every right to express them however, there are ways to do so that are less homophobic. The intersectionality displayed here is the crossroads between religion and sexuality. The formation of beliefs towards differing sexualities grows increasingly complicated when religious or moral beliefs are tied into the decision-making. In terms of medical associations, it is important to treat all patients equally, regardless of their life decisions and views. Therefore, unless a doctor truly feels as if they cannot provide adequate care for such a patient, they should attempt to care for them to the best of their ability in order for LGBTQ couples to attain equal rights.

Dr. Roi has exemplified binary thinking because she has chosen to reject her patient. She sees the situation with two options: either she accepts the daughter of the lesbian couple as her patient or she declines the family. Although she has full legal rights to reject the patient, there is a difference between doing so in a proper manner and doing so in a harmful, damaging way. For instance, the doctor could have denied the patient before an appointment was set up so the couple did not obtain any feelings of excitement towards Dr. Roi for their daughter. Additionally, Dr. Roi could have recommended another pediatrician from the very beginning to avoid maltreatment. Therefore, because doctors will continue to support their religious beliefs, educational programs should be implemented in private practices and hospitals in order to teach physicians kind ways to reject a patient while stilling maintaining their ability to practice their legal rights. This way both parties will receive justification for their actions: doctors can express their beliefs and LGBTQ couples can seek other, more suitable medical help.

In the end, the couple realized that they did not want a doctor treating their daughter who thinks less of the patient anyways. This is a heart wrenching story because many gay couples experience homophobia throughout their lives and six short days after their daughter is born, she too is experiencing harassment. Something needs to be done to prevent this issue from continuously occurring. A beneficial place to start is proper education for physicians because it avoids changing the doctor’s beliefs while keeping all parties involved content.

Sources:

Aulette, Judy Root and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds Third Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Print.

Gamrat, Cindy. “House Bill 4309.” Michigan Legislature. 5 March 2015. Web. 8 March

Staff, myFOXDeteroit.com. “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby.” MyFOX Detroit. 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 5 March 2015.

Film Review: Boy Meets Girl (2015)

Film Review: Boy Meets Girl (2015)

Director:  Eric Schaeffer

Writer: Eric Schaeffer

Cast: Michael Galante, Michelle Hendley, and Jean Devereux Koester

Genre: Comedy/Drama

 

Argument/Thesis:

The Film Boy meets girl challenges the heteronormative ideals of the archetypal love story portrayed in most romantic films. In turn, the film brings necessary attention to the transgender community.

Synopsis:

Michael Welch and Michelle Hendley star alongside each other in this groundbreaking film about the trials of love and relationships in the lives of young adults. Set in a small town in Kentucky Robby (Welch) and his best friend Ricky, (Hendley) a transgender girl are living their lives in hopes to someday make it out of the small town. Then comes along beautiful young girl named Francesca, whose fiancée is on tour in Afghanistan. A relationship ensues between Ricky and Francesca and in turn the viewer is able to see the hegemonic masculine ideas that her fiancée believes so strongly. This relationship serves as an eye opener for Robby and his true feelings for Ricky emerge.

Review:

The Film Boy Meets Girl allows the viewer to watch the premise of a basic love story through a completely different lens. The narrative of a stereotypical “boy meets girl” story follows strict gender binaries, never taking into account the possibility of variance with regard to gender roles portrayed in these films. Ricky the female protagonist in the film is a transgender girl who is trying to establish herself and make it to New York City in order to achieve her dreams of being a fashion designer. This film challenges the gender stereotypes associated with the “quintessential romantic” relationships as the main character who ends up finding love is in fact transgender. Throughout the course of the film it truly feels like you are going on the journey with the characters. There is a sense of authenticity and believably with regard to the characters that makes it far easier to relate to their struggles. As a viewer you really become invested with the characters lives as the films underlying themes can be widely related to. For example, Ricky struggles with her identity as a young girl and although puts forth a tough exterior truly wants to be accepted. This can concept is true for so many adolescences in society today. Despite the fact that the logistics of the situation may differ from person to person the notion of acceptance is common to all.

The film touches on the understanding that gender is not simply what your biology denotes. It is how you express yourself, how you identify, and most important it is how you feel most comfortable presenting your self to the world. It is clear that this film comprehends the social construction of gender and how this can be harmful to individuals such as Ricky who do not follow these gender binaries set out by society. For example, when Francesca first meets Ricky she assumes that she is a heterosexual cis gendered female, falling line with the compulsory heterosexuality that is ingrained into our beliefs from a very young age. When Ricky tells Francesca that she is in fact transgender, Francesca is astonished and begins to ask a series of personal questions. As a result of this social construction it is often times too much for individuals to comprehend that there exists individuals who don’t fall under this socially constructed gender binary. Additionally, ideas of gender are not always what society has fashioned them to be. This can be difficult for individuals to perceive, because this idea of male/female heterosexuality is all that was ever discussed for such a long period of time.

This film gave a realistic perspective of the trans experience. It really demonstrated the ups and downs trans people experience. Although being cis gendered, I will never fully understand what that is like, the film allowed for a more well rounded comprehension the kind of struggles trans people go through on a daily basis

Specific Scene:

There is a scene towards the end of film where Ricky and Robby have fight and in the heat of the moment Robby tells Ricky that she’s “not really anything” (referring to her gender). This scene is particularly heart wrenching because Robby was the one person who she thought she could trust and in that moment he treated her as an aberration. Individuals can empathize and be supportive all they want however, at the end of the day there is no way to understand what she has gone through and must go through on an everyday basis. It illustrates that although society has made significant progress with regard to understanding the complexities of gender there is still ground that needs to be covered. Society must reach a point where thoughts such as these never even cross the minds of individuals.

Experience:

         I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the experience of Reelout as much as I did. I entered into the experience with the pre-conceived notion that it was going to be an environment in which certain views would be heavily promoted with out explanation. Nonetheless, I was proven to be vastly incorrect, as it was very enlightening. I really enjoyed the whole experience and the outpouring of support from the community and the sponsors that I witnessed while in attendance. I believe these types of festivals should be something that are consistently promoted. This festival in particular really opened my eyes to the importance of an understanding the issues some of the films were tackling. Furthermore, once the film started it felt less like obligation and more like enjoyment, something that I was to see for a simple fascination in the film.

Sources

Thefilmcollaborative.org,. (2015). Boy Meets Girl. Retrieved 11 February 2015, from

http://www.thefilmcollaborative.org/films/boymeetsgirl

Film Review of “Lives Worth Living- Shorts Program”

Film Review of “Lives Worth Living- Shorts Program”

Lives Worth Living- Shorts Program (2012-2014)

Cast: Various actors and actresses

Director: Various directors

Genre: Biography, Documentary, Fiction, and LGBTQ

LivesWorthLiving_WebBanner

The films within “Lives Worth Living” were compelling and thought provoking. They all seemed to display the common correlation between mental health illnesses, and gender and sexuality conflict. One of the films was about a woman who had anxiety and was gay and couldn’t talk to her crush without shying away or acting strange. She hid behind her anxiety in fear of being rejected. Finally, she decided that she would be honest with herself and her crush so that she could overcome her anxiety and live her life how she wanted to without feeling burdened. Immediately I thought about young adults in contemporary Western culture feeling nervous and uneasy asking out their crushes, then I imagined how someone in the LGBTQ community and/or someone with a mental illness would feel doing the same. Not only is there a fear of being rejected but also a fear of being judged and shamed for their sexual orientation as well as perhaps not being physically able to as a result of their mental health. Everything piled on top of one another can make these individuals feel helpless as they wrestle with the weight of the world on their shoulders. This film positively portrayed the outcome of conquering fear, and mental health illnesses, and I hope it inspires others struggling with the same issues.

Another film that stuck out to me was about the main character, a man who was deaf, who enjoyed swimming in the pool alongside another man. He spent most of his days alone and isolated from others. At the end of the scene, the other man who he swam with used sign language to talk to him, and they kissed, and swam together. This film really touched me because the whole time I was watching it I felt sad that he was alone and was searching for someone to be with, when really he had someone all along. It warmed my heart that the other man put effort into learning sign language for the man who is deaf because it showed how much he cared. This was really a great example of overcoming society’s belief of heteronormativity.

Overall, these films were truly inspiring and genuine. They expressed real-life situations, not just Hollywood-esque movie scenes that don’t accurately depict the lives of queer individuals and what they deal with. They can truly be helpful for and give guidance to those tackling similar obstacles. The films seemed to be expertly made and kept me intrigued throughout.

The film that I’m focusing on was about a man who desired to be a woman, and so he dressed in drag and performed on stages. When in drag he was known as Phatima Rude. The scene that stood out to me the most was when he was alone in his van talking directly to the camera about personal events that took place in his life, and he struggled to speak without crying. Throughout the film you witness this confident, bold individual but when he cries about the hardships in his life you get to see a different side of him that is not seen until that moment. He shares intimate details about defeating his drug addiction and the moment he almost removed his own genitals because he wanted to be a female so badly. It made me think about all the people that go through the same challenges, and who have the ability to emerge stronger than ever to take on their lives. He expresses his gender identity through makeup, the way he dresses, and they way he behaves. It goes to show that gender is entirely socially constructed (Aulette and Wittner), and that gender-expansiveness is quite plausible, especially now in contemporary society. Female and male are not the only gender possibilities in 21st century culture, and these are known as sexual binaries. There is an array of gender choices that many people identify with and Phatima is a quintessential example of these variations.

When I walked into The Screening Room, naturally I looked around the room to see who else was there viewing the films. I found it interesting that there were quite a few older adults there because it seems as though older people, more than others, are opposed to the idea of being homosexual, queer, transgender, etc. This is likely because they grew up in a different era where it wasn’t very common to be any of these. Many of them grew up learning that traditional and conventional practices were what to live by. Personally, I think individuals in today’s society are becoming more accepting of others who do not express “normal” gender or sexuality because it is something they grow up understanding. Usually it is something that is seen as natural. I like knowing that there is hope for the future in terms of accepting other people’s gender and sexuality choices, even though there is still a long way to go.

References:

Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds: Third Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Print.

http://www.reelout.com/event/lives-worth-living-shorts-program/

Regarding Susan Sontag (2014) Film Critique

Regarding Susan Sontag (2014) Film Critique

Director and writer: Nancy Kates

Cast: Patricia Clarkson

Genre: Documentary/Biographical film

Susan Sontag’s Biography:

Susan Sontag was an academic, novelist, and journalist who dedicated her life to promoting women’s rights, spreading anti-war views, as well as writing numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. Sontag was one of America’s first celebrity intellectuals mostly due to her contributions to the society, but also due to her controversial criticism of the society.

Synopsis:

 Regarding Susan Sontag is a documentary which investigates into the life of Susan Sontag who can be viewed as one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century. The documentary uses archival materials, stories from family, friends, and colleagues, as well as Sontag’s own words in order to construct a storyline of her life.

Review:

The documentary focuses on the life of Susan Sontag throughout her career as a writer and activist, but at the same time it incorporates her personal life. The viewers are presented with a large number of information in a very effective manner since the documentary creates a timeline of Sontag’s life and points out achievements and struggles she has faced. In order to get a better understanding of Sontag’s life, the viewers are provided with information from Sontag’s youth and upbringing. Sontag was shy and withdrawn in her teens and due to her inexperience in relationships she falls in love with a much older man to whom she marries soon after. The documentary shows that throughout her marriage she was never in an ideal relationship even though they did have a child. It was evident throughout the movie that Sontag was never showing signs of emphasized femininity nor was she ever pressured to act in a certain way. Sontag presented herself since an early age as a strong and independent woman who did not feel that she has to conform to the needs and desires of man. This also touches on the topic of choice and free will since the documentary has clearly shown that Sontag did not have any boundaries or restrictions enforced which could have prevented her from being successful. The movie on a couple of occasion’s mentions that Sontag was suffering in the marriage and therefore that is the reason why she decided to get a divorce from her husband. In the meantime Sontag is introduced into the world of gay bars by a friend of hers named Hariott. Soon after Sontag discovers that she has homosexual tendencies and develops affectionate feelings for Harriot who is a lesbian herself. Bisexuality plays an important role in Sontag’s life especially on the personal level since she became more satisfied with her life and that was the period when Sontag started to take part in activist campaigns for women right’s as well as anti-war campaigns. All of the people who were interviewed for the documentary have in some way or another said that Sontag has found her true self by coming out and being open about her sexuality. Through Sontag’s extensive activist campaigns, journalism and novels she eventually attracted worldwide attention. One crucial factor which determined Sontag’s popularity was globalization. Through the developments in technology, transportation, and communication Sontag was able to interact with highly influential people around the globe and also spread her message in an effective manner. During this time Sontag’s love life was turbulent as she was constantly changing both male and female partners. The movie does in a way show that Sontag was a promiscuous woman who at certain times was emotionally unstable. One reason to her emotional instability could have been due to the fact that she was receiving disapproval from a large number of people due to her criticism of the society. Sontag needed a way to relieve the stress so she chose to be actively involved in feminist campaigns and she openly admitted that she was a feminist. Feminism played a big role in Sontag’s life since she was able to connect better to her womanly self and she found a place where she could freely express her views on certain issues. Throughout the movie it was obvious that Sontag caused a lot of public outrage due to some of her public speeches criticizing the society. There is a possibility that this public outrage was not primarily because of her criticism of society, but instead was due to anti-feminist backlash. The movie was not able to come to a conclusion to why some people were opposed to her, although it did point out that  Sontag  has tried her best to not get distracted by opposition. Overall, the documentary presents Susan Sontag’s whole life in a very effective way and conveys a message to the audience that overcoming socio-cultural barriers can be accomplished.

Specific Scene:

One scene which really strikes out was when an interview was shown in which Sontag said that her desire to write comes from homosexuality and that she would have never been that successful without it. I think that Sontag wanted to tell people that for happiness in life and personal satisfaction you have to accept who you are, accept differences, and work on your self-realization. This directly relates to the themes discussed in class which is that there are a lot of people who are afraid of other people’s opinions and as a result they may choose to not come out.

Individual Experience:

Attending the Reelout Film Festival expended my view on the community I was not familiar with. Before the actual movie started a short movie made by Queens’s students was projected which I found to be a nice touch from Reelout since they are supporting young talents in film industry. The theatre was half full with very few university students which I found surprising. Majority of the people in the theatre were older ladies and few gentlemen and the atmosphere was welcoming and positive. Overall, my experience at Reelout was very positive and I would highly recommend the documentary Regarding Susan Sontag to anyone who is interested in movies that are on the more serious side.

Sources:

“Regarding Susan Sontag.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 2 Oct. 2014. Web. 6 Feb. 2015.

Film Critique of “Before the Last Curtain Falls” (2014)

Film Critique of “Before the Last Curtain Falls” (2014)

Director: Thomas Wallner

Writers:Thomas Wallner and Eva Küpper

Cast: Gerrit Becker, Richard Dierick, Vanessa Van Durme, Andrea De Laet, Danilo Povolo, and Rudy Suwyns

Genre: Documentary

Synopsis

Gardenia began as a local theatre production in Belgium. With a unique and captivating premise of which the cast is comprised of ex-cabaret homosexual men and transwomen the show has been performed over two hundred times in twenty-five different countries. The documentary Before the Last Curtain Falls depicts the very last time GardeniaBefore the last curtain falls 4 is performed. It also reaches into the pasts of the performers to gain insight on their hardships in light of their queer identity.

Review

The documentary Before the Last Curtain Falls presents its story to the audience in an effortless timeline. The opening scene is packed full of extravagant eye shadow, fake eyelashes, and of course dazzling dresses; all the components of a cabaret show. In stark contrast, the first glimpse of the play Gardenia depicts the cast as men in suits and ties. The accountability that is displayed enforces the audience’s expectation of gender roles and the characteristics that accompany it. As the film progresses, the director Thomas Wallner transitions between scenes of Gardenia and looking into the lives of the cast. This creative style allows the audience to view the progression of the play alongside the downfalls and triumphs of the actors. The theatrical performance of Gardenia as well as the memoirs of the men and transwomen moves towards breaking the heterosexual matrix that is the performance of sex and gender.

The stories of the men and transwomen in the documentary are individually unique. However, all share similar themes of feeling like an outsider and overcoming their fears in search of love and acceptance. In society it is a common assumption that once one reaches an older age that they are confident and satisfied with their lives. Before the Curtain Falls rips down this perception. It is evident that although some of the men and transwomen have made peace with themselves, many still face obstacles blocking them from true happiness and self love. One man, during an interview, looked at the camera and asks the question “What is gay?” This question provokes thought about the binaries that constrict many people’s lives. The expression that sex, sexuality, and gender are not always separated into two opposite categories is apparent throughout the documentary. I believe that the director does an excellent job portraying the spectrum of queer identity.

The documentary uncovers varying aspects of expression. The men and transwomen in the documentary have found an outlet in Gardenia that allows them to express their agency. Many members of the cast describe theatre as a safe place. When the cast was young, they learned how to express their agency by being open with their sexuality or by accepting themselves as transwomen. Society was significantly less accepting than it is today, making their actions exceptionally brave. In an interview with one of the star transwomen they describe the process of transitioning from male to female. As described, they had to board a plane with a suitcase full of money and receive a surgery from a gynaecologist in a foreign country. This process caused risks to both her health and her safety. In my opinion, the director included this interview to imply the dangerous methods that had to be taken just so she could feel like herself. The woman then proceeds to explain that to pay for the surgery she earned money with sex work. This situation is a perfect example of the boundaries of choice. We may ask: is choice available when the sex work determines whether they may live their life as who they truly are? The issue that arises is that, yes, a choice was made to obtain the surgery. However, the concept of choice is diminished since the life of the individual may have been in danger without the surgery. As one woman expresses in the documentary when faced at a crossroads “You either kill yourself or accept who you want to be”. The documentary does an outstanding job of provoking thought in the audience.

Before the Last Curtain Falls was composed of many intriguing scenes. I believe the issue of heteronormativity that is apparent within the documentary and within society is expressed well in a scene when a man describes his mothers last words as “be who you are, but do not cut into your skin.” The man listened to his mother and did not proceed with surgery to transition from male to female. This scene was powerful to me because of the contradiction in the statement. Society provides the notion of acceptance yet, places a threshold on the acceptance once it succeeds the boundaries of comfort. This follows the theme of heteronormativity because the mother believes that the act of her son transitioning will change who he is. In reality transitioning into what one feels they are meant to be is more natural than suppression.

Overall, the Reelout Queer Film and Video Festival was a great experience. I attempted to attend In the Turn and The Dog. Unfortunately, both films were sold out at the door. Before the Last Curtain Falls was one of a small selection of films that I could choose from. I was impressed with the outcome of the documentary as it provoked thoughts on many issues while simultaneously providing light-hearted laughs. I believe Reelout is a great resource for the Kingston to learn and experience the LGBTQ community. One aspect I found intriguing was that the Canadian Cancer Society had an ad to promote health and safety amongst transsexuals. I believe this is extremely practical, as transmen and transwomen should have equal opportunities for health care without judgment.

Works Cited

Aulette, Judy Root., Judith G. Wittner, and Kristin Blakely. “Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed.” New York: Oxford UP, 2014. Print.

“International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.” IDFA RSS. Press Materials, 2014. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.